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Keeping time

Brian Taylor | 16:38 UK time, Thursday, 2 July 2009

Today, if you will permit me, a little tale. Not about politics. No sweeping condemnations. No tea and scandal, their ancient custom.

I was at the top of Calton Hill in Edinburgh earlier this week, broadcasting to an astonished nation - or at least that portion of the a.n. watching the lunchtime telly.

Pausing between sundry appearances, I glanced towards the Nelson Monument where all was industry and activity.

Inquiring of one of the workers, I learned they were reinstalling Edinburgh's Time Ball that very day.

My interlocutor was hugely enthusiastic and well-informed.

He reminded me of the Time Ball's original purpose which was to advise shipping in the Forth as to when it was precisely one o'clock, thus replicating visually the sonic effect of the One O'Clock Gun.

But the very passage of time had jeopardised this purpose.

According to Edinburgh World Heritage, the ball was now descending with an "ignominious thunk".

So repair work was instigated with two Scottish firms taking the lead: Ritchie's the clockmakers together with the foundry expertise of Charles Laing and Sons.

My companion told me of the precision required to return the repaired Ball to its site.

Further, he informed me with evident pride that the mechanism of the Time Ball will continue to be wound by hand.

There was something about that information which satisfied me. Something, at least, has escaped the relentless machine.

Shipping in the estuary may no longer rely upon the Time Ball. The recession is not one whit more tolerable for its presence.

I know it is utterly irrational but we are more than calculating machines. I am glad that Edinburgh's Time Ball has been repaired.

It should be fully in action by the end of August - and I look forward to its descending with an elegant glide when next I am broadcasting from Calton Hill.

PS: As you may have discerned from the foregoing, the recess is upon us at Holyrood. This blog, consequently, will slip gently into the summer equivalent of hibernation (aestanation?).

I would hope, however, to post from time to time.


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